Sunderland Special Olympics team heads to games

Members of the Special Olympics Sunderland preparing for the fifth annual swimming gala in March.
Members of the Special Olympics Sunderland preparing for the fifth annual swimming gala in March.
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STAR athletes are heading south this week to compete as the country’s Olympic legacy continues.

Eight swimmers, gymnasts and bowlers are on their way from Wearside to Bath for the Special Olympics Great Britain National Games as they compete against fellow athletes with learning disabilities.

Volunteer Kath Rooney, a retired civil servant, is organising the trip for Special Olympics Sunderland team, which trains on Saturdays at the Raich Carter Sports Centre in Hendon.

“I think the biggest thing is that everyone enjoys themselves and are rewarded for the effort they put in,” Kath said.

“Whether they finish first or last, everyone is rewarded, be it with a medal or ribbon, for the amount of effort and work that goes into it.”

A number of Kath’s fellow volunteers are Sunderland University students, who are gaining experience through coaching.

Most of those in the competition, staged every four years, have autism or Down’s Syndrome. The Special Olympics – the third event allowed to use the name Olympic along with the main games and Paralympics – runs from tomorrow until Sunday.

The Sunderland branch has 26 members, aged from 10 and to their 20s, but the games has coincided with many being abroad for the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.